Are you experiencing bullying and/or harassment at work? Read on for more information about what steps you can take to try and resolve this issue.
What constitutes bullying and/or harassment?
In general terms, bullying and harassment is behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated or offended. It may be directly aggressive behaviour but is often much more subtle. Examples of bullying or harassing behaviour include:
• Ignoring an employee in conversations;
• Spreading malicious rumours about an employee or someone else;
• Overloading an employee with work;
• Setting an employee unachievable targets;
• Constantly criticising an employee’s work without justification;
• Stopping an employee progressing at work by preventing training or promotion opportunities
What steps should you take if you are being bullied or harassed?
In the first instance, if you feel able to, talk to those who are bullying or harassing you. It may be that their behaviour is not deliberate and they did not realise the effect their behaviour was having on you. Having this brought to their attention may be all it takes to make them stop. If you do not feel able to address the individual(s) directly, you could ask a work colleague to do this for you.
Alternatively, if this does not resolve matters or you do not feel it is appropriate to talk to the individual(s) directly you could submit an informal grievance. Usually this will be to your line manager, unless this is the person bullying you, in which case it may be to their direct line manager or someone else in a position of authority.
If your informal grievance is not resolved satisfactorily or you simply don’t wish to make an informal grievance you should make a formal grievance. The grievance should be in writing and explain what you are complaining of and why, providing as much information as possible to enable your employer to deal with the grievance. If your employer has a grievance policy then you should follow this.
If you don’t think your employer has reached a fair decision or there was a procedural defect in the way your grievance was handled you may appeal against the outcome of the grievance.
What if the grievance is not resolved to your satisfaction?
If your grievance is still not resolved to your satisfaction you might consider making or threatening a claim against your employer. Talk to an employment law specialist for advice on your dispute and the best way to handle it.
ACAS may be able to help you resolve the dispute through conciliation. You must go through the ACAS conciliation process before bringing a claim in the Employment Tribunal.
What claims can an employee make?
Bullying at work is not an actionable claim in itself but has to be linked to another claim such as constructive dismissal or discrimination.
If you are forced to resign because of your employer’s behaviour you may have a claim for constructive dismissal.
The key test is whether your employer’s behaviour constituted a serious or fundamental breach of contract. For example your employer may have breached an express term of your contract such as a failure to properly follow an anti-bullying or anti-harassment policy. Or they may have breached an implied term such as the duty of care and/or the duty of mutual trust and confidence. Or they may be in breach of their statutory duty to take reasonable steps to protect the health, safety and welfare of employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
If you are going to resign you should not wait too long. If you don’t resign until, say, several months after the last event, you may be considered to have accepted the employer’s breach of contract.
A word of caution – constructive dismissal claims are difficult to prove. You should think very carefully about resigning if you want to claim constructive dismissal and preferably take advice from an employment law specialist first.
Harassment under the Equality Act 2010
If you have been bullied or harassed because of a protected characteristic that you or someone related to you possesses (protected characteristics are race, age, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender orientation, marriage or civil partnership status or religious or philosophical belief), you may have a claim under the Equality Act 2010.
If you have been bullied or harassed you may have claims under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 or for negligence under common law. These claims are made in the civil courts rather than in the Employment Tribunal. You should obtain specialist legal advice if you wish to pursue any of these claims.
A claim for constructive dismissal must be made in the Employment Tribunal within three months less one day of the date you resigned from your employment.
A claim for harassment under the Equality Act 2010 must be made in the Employment Tribunal within three months less one day of the date that the harassment occurred (or that you became aware of it).
If you succeed in a claim for bullying and/or harassment you may be entitled to compensation including for loss of earnings and/or for injury to feelings.
How can Lincs Law help you?
For more information, please contact us on 01522 440512 or visit our website at www.lincslaw.co.uk.
Specialist Employment Solicitor
Lincs Law Employment Solicitors